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Wednesday Publishing Links: Horizons Becomes DellArte Press

The much maligned Harlequin Horizons (which authors and readers had begun to refer to as HarHo after what I presume to mean that some one is engaging in prostituting herself) has transformed into DellArte Press. It has essentially the same look and feel but there is no mention of Harlequin anywhere. Even the contact person is located in Indiana.

I can’t see any mention of Horizons or DellArte Press over at the Harlequin boards (but I also confess to not being very familiar with these boards and could have totally missed it).   There is no word whether this will pacify the writing organizations.   To use Chicklet’s terminology, it appears that Harlequin will be participating in some form of publisher cash for service program in fact, but no longer in name.

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Choire writing for the Awl describes the new publishing venture that Talking Points Memo has undertaken.   TPM, one of the largest, oldest, and most visible liberal blogs, has been responsible for breaking quite a few stories in the last couple of years.   It has hired a publisher.

This publisher will be responsible for making the publication hum and grow. The first duty in the listing is “audience growth.” This is what a publisher should do: ensure the ongoing financial success and growth of his or her publication. Instead, what we have now in the media industry are publishers who believe their duties include dictating the editorial mission on behalf of a business principle. This is when publishers go wrong and, generally, is when they should be taken out back and shot.

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Teleread has a piece on how to get a bargain ebook reader.   It recommends both the high end which is buying a subscription to the Globe & the Kindle Dx or heading off to eBay for a sub $50 PDA.   PDAs with a 3.5″ screen or larger can be   a good reading device.

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Nathan Bransford takes a look at the economics of publishing.   Lynn Viehl had shared that she was paid a $50,000 advance and earned an additional $24,517.36 in profit after taxes.   It was estimated that the gross revenue for the publishing was $450,000.00.   Bransford points out that the profit for the publisher takes into consideration all of the expenses and that bestsellers make up for the majority of books that don’t make any money (or may actually lose money for publishers).   Of course, for authors to get a greater chunk of the profit, they’ll have to move away from the traditional publishing model.

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Edan Lupicka writing for The Millions points out the hazards of giving out awards because of gender or ethnicity.   It’s demeaning to those groups of writers whose talent and skill should speak and be judged for themselves.   (Via @glecharles).   But Lupicka isn’t certain on how to erase gender or race bias but lamenting the lack of diversity amongst winners of prestigious awards can lead to awards given on something other than merit or somehow diminishing the work of the author based on gender or ethnicity.

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Persona Non Data tackles the issue of publishing and pricing. It’s a pretty fascinating article and I definitely recommend interested parties take a look.   PND was in the airline industry and each seat had a different value.   Books are not priced differently but are subject to a band of pricing.   PND then goes on to talk about researchers of the music industry and students’ sensitivity to price:

The authors also experimented with a subscription type model that had a fixed price component with a per-use fee, and this model appeared to be more effective at maximizing revenue and value for both retailer and consumer.

Google Books is based on a subscription based model.   The key to an author’s increased revenue from subscription based models is volume. In other words, from a pool of subscribers, the author gets revenue by virtue of being in the pool from a large number of people who would have never bought her book in the first place.   Depending on the subscription price, this has real interest to me as a reader.

In self publishing setting, authors could set up coops to have effectively the same result.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

105 Comments

  1. Ros
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 11:13:24

    That does seem like a real step forward on the whole Horizons mess. I would still like to be reassured, however, that DellArte Press is not going to be advertised in Harlequin rejection letters.

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  2. library addict
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 11:43:27

    So if Harlequin is no longer putting the referral on the rejection letters is that enough (along with the renaming and removing links from the main site) to get them “reinstated” by RWA, SFWA, and the other writers’ organizations?

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  3. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 12:10:45

    Agreed, Ros. That’s the big question.

    I’d also like HQ to not dangle the carrot that it will keep its eye on DellArte Press titles for potential new voices in the commercial HQ imprints. (This had been said in the HQ letter to authors when it had first announced HQHo.) HQ already has a mechanism for finding new voices. It’s called the slush pile.

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  4. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 12:12:58

    @library addict: Too soon to tell. I’d say a definite maybe.

    Oh, something else: effective December 1, HQ is no longer offering its critique service. That had been a point of contention for MWA specifically. And frankly, it is a big conflict of interest, and I’m surprised HQ hadn’t been dinged for it before. But anyway, yes, the critique service is closing.

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  5. Estara
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 12:37:17

    In self publishing setting, authors could set up coops to have effectively the same result.

    Which is happening, if not in the romance area as yet (at least I haven’t come across it), with previously published (“known”) sf&f authors (mostly women, at that)

    Book View Café (which has a well-run contributor blog here) with lots of free and serialised reads, as well as an ebook store (they’re looking into POD options as well), and which is also working on publishing their own new works. There’s already an anthology out which collects previously published short stories from various authors, and in December there’ll be a Steampunk anthology with all new short stories.

    Authors:
    CL Anderson/Sarah Zettel/Ayla D.
    Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
    Brenda Clough
    Kate Daniel
    Lori Devoti
    Laura Anne Gilman
    Sylvia Kelso
    Katharine Kerr
    K.E. Kimbriel
    Sue Lange
    Ursula K. Le Guin (comics only so far)
    Rebecca Lickiss
    Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant
    Vonda N. McIntyre
    Nancy Jane Moore
    Pati Nagle
    Steven Piziks (writing as Steven Harper)
    Phyllis Irene Radford/P.R. Frost
    Madeleine Robins
    Deborah J. Ross/Deborah Wheeler
    Sarah Smith
    Amy Sterling Casil
    Jennifer Stevenson
    Judith Tarr
    Susan Wright
    - new in January (as far as I know, she’s working hard on scanning, etc.): Sherwood Smith

    ~ the site just had its one year anniversary and the authors talk it up at the conventions they go to (in and outside of panels, etc.). So far 1000 registered readers, but you can actually read the free stories without registering.

    Closed Circle (whenever they master Joomla and have converted all their backlist books)
    C. J. Cherryh
    Jane Fancher
    Lynn Abbey

    Coming, as e-books:

    Rider at the Gate, Cloud's Rider. Rimrunners. Tripoint. Finity's End, Goblin Mirror, Rusalka, Chernevog, Yvgenie. They won't be the only ones. Don't expect them all to appear at once, and that's not the order in which they will appear. Remember it takes us some deal of time to get them into format, working late in the evenings AFTER doing our regular writing during the day, plus trying to get our electronic records into order AND trying to do editing, covers, and webmastering the blogs and websites. But don't rush out and pay huge amounts for a personal copyof these titles unless you're a fanatic collector.

    ~ has reached 500 registered readers (on what so far is a new look for Cherryh’s personal blog).

    Welcome to the Further Adventures Of… – short stories about the heros of her DelRey fantasy books by Barbara Hambly ($5 per story – very short excerpts are up, no word count number or file format mentioned, three of the four ones uploaded so far have been previously published). She’s planning on writing and releasing new ones if the demand is there.

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  6. Jorrie Spencer
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 12:43:13

    Very cool, about the Book View Café. I just loved Cherryh’s Rimrunners, and though it’s been a while since I’ve read it, I think it would have a lot of appeal to romance readers.

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  7. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 12:51:02

    @Jackie Kessler Is it your argument that publishers are ethically bound to only look at their slush pile for new voices?

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  8. Laura Vivanco
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 13:23:50

    Leaving aside the question of the ethics of the business model or how authors’ organisations will react, I like the sense of humour of whoever thought up the name “DellArte Press.” The character of Arlecchino (Harlequin) was one of the most popular in Commedia dell’arte.

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  9. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 13:33:51

    @Jane: Jane, my argument that any publisher who effectively tells authors “your book isn’t good enough for us to pay you, but it is good enough for you to pay us” is acting in an unethical manner. Advertising its assisted self-publishing/vanity publishing venue in its rejection letters crosses the line. That’s not HQ offering an option to aspiring authors. That’s preying on authors at their weakest.

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  10. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 13:37:47

    @Jackie Kessler: I’m asking about this:

    I'd also like HQ to not dangle the carrot that it will keep its eye on DellArte Press titles for potential new voices in the commercial HQ imprints. (This had been said in the HQ letter to authors when it had first announced HQHo.) HQ already has a mechanism for finding new voices. It's called the slush pile.

    I don’t understand the ethical argument for using DellArte as a way to find new authors and wondered if you could expand on that.

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  11. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 13:39:32

    @Jackie Kessler Is it your argument that publishers are ethically bound to only look at their slush pile for new voices?

    Jane, that’s where they do look. Saying “well, if you pay us to print your book maybe we’ll change our minds about the original rejection” is disingenous at best.

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  12. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 13:41:10

    I don't understand the ethical argument for using DellArte as a way to find new authors and wondered if you could expand on that.

    Jane, I think you’re missing Jackie’s point. If you send your MS to Harlequin and they reject it and send it to DellArte, and you pay DellArte to print it, that isn’t going to increase your chances of being published by Harlequin.

    Implying that it might is what’s unethical.

    There would be nothing unethical if major fashion designers chose catwalk models from the Barbizon Modeling School talent shows. But they don’t, they never have, and they never will. Therefore, it’s unethical for Barbizon to imply in their advertising that that might happen and therefore you should pay them.

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  13. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 13:48:10

    @Jane: Harlequin said it itself, in #7 of its Harlequin Horizons FAQ:

    7. Will Harlequin and Author Solutions work together?

    Yes and no. The self-publishing house is a separate business with separate staff, website, contract, etc.

    However, if a title sells very well, Harlequin can acquire the title for future print publication.

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  14. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 13:50:23

    @Jackie Kessler: yes and why is that unethical?

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  15. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 13:52:01

    And here is where Harlequin said it would be suggesting HQHo in its rejection letters, from #8 in its HQHo FAQ:

    8. What's going to happen with the slush Harlequin currently receives?

    We will continue to welcome unsolicited manuscripts from aspiring authors.

    All standard/form/template rejection letters will include a short note about Harlequin Horizons as a self-publishing option for the aspiring author.

    Author Solutions will not have access to the author contact information in our eHERS database.

    No one from Author Solutions will contact any aspiring authors unless they opt-in through the website (www.harlequinhorizons.com).

    Emphasis mine.

    Surely, you see the conflict of interest here, don’t you?

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  16. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 13:53:10

    @Julia Sullivan: No, Kessler said that there were two things that bothered her and I was asking the ethicality of the second which was mining the customer list for possible publishable manuscripts.

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  17. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 13:58:51

    @Jane:

    Julia spelled it out very clearly.

    Look, self-published books sell, on average, 75 copies of each title. (This is according to Writers Digest.) For Harlequin to even say “If a [DellArte} title sells very well, Harlequin can acquire the title for future print publication” is offering false hope to aspiring authors — after taking their money. That’s unethical.

    This isn’t me arguing against assisted self-publishing/vanity publishing or self-publishing (even though I think doing true self-publishing successfully is extremely difficult, and assisted self-publishing/vanity publishing is the worst decision an aspiring author can make). Publishers are in business to make money, and I appreciate that Harlequin is trying to find ways to tap into the POD market. How they launched it leaves much to be desired.

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  18. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 13:59:32

    @Jackie Kessler: That’s not what I deem a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest occurs when there is self dealing or the financial interests in multiple organizations leads to unethical activity. But since the ASI staff and the Harlequin staff are completely separate, there isn’t a conflict of interest. There is no self dealing.

    I understand that authors don’t like it and they feel its predatory to have the referral, but if the person doing the rejection isn’t involved in ASI then it isn’t a conflict of interest (at least not as I understand the definition of conflict).

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  19. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:00:18

    @Jane: Why would Harlequin mine the DellArte customer list for possible publishable manuscripts **when they have already rejected those manuscripts when they were submitted to Harlequin proper**?

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  20. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:02:02

    That's not what I deem a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest occurs when there is self dealing or the financial interests in multiple organizations leads to unethical activity. But since the ASI staff and the Harlequin staff are completely separate, there isn't a conflict of interest. There is no self dealing.

    The staff are separate, but the money goes to Harlequin. DellArte is a Harlequin imprint, remember?

    I understand that authors don't like it and they feel its predatory to have the referral, but if the person doing the rejection isn't involved in ASI then it isn't a conflict of interest (at least not as I understand the definition of conflict).

    Follow the money. There’s a clear conflict of interest.

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  21. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:02:18

    @Jackie Kessler: Because they misjudged the saleability of a manuscript and subsequent success of the book showed them they were wrong?

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  22. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:03:17

    @Jackie Kessler: Can you tell me what your definition of conflict of interest is? I’m not trying to be argumentative, I’m just trying to understand your position.

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  23. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:12:33

    @Jane: How do you define “success” in this case? Selling, on average, 75 copies is not successful. That’s a lousy sales record.

    There’s nothing wrong with Harlequin keeping its eye on DellArte sales, of course. It should. It owns DellArte. But to say that it’s doing so with an eye for potential new talent for other HQ imprints is extremely misleading.

    Regarding conflict of interest, dictionary.com says it’s “the circumstance of a public officeholder, business executive, or the like, whose personal interests might benefit from his or her official actions or influence.” By having Harlequin reject authors and then refer them to its POD imprint, Harlequin makes money without paying the author. Do you see this as something other than a conflict of interest?

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  24. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:17:16

    @Jackie Kessler: You are asking me a lot of questions here.

    1) I would not define success as selling on average 75 copies.

    2) I don’t see it as “extremely” misleading.

    3) Yes, I do. There are a lot of steps and layers separating the person doing the rejection to the income earned by Harlequin from any customer of DellArte press. Conflicts run with the individual not the entities.

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  25. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:19:08

    @Jackie Kessler: Let me give an example of what I would see as a conflict. If the editors received a commission on each referral that resulted in a sale at DellArte Pres, that would be a conflict.

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  26. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:26:47

    @Jane: I disagree with you regarding what is extremely misleading and what’s not.

    As for the rejection letter referral, there may be a lot of steps/layers involved, but at the end of the day, it’s Harlequin making money at the author’s expense, after Harlequin has decided not to pay the author. We could split hairs and say that the editor who puts the referral to DellArte in the rejection letter is paid by the same employer who owns DellArte, but I honestly believe the editors have no choice in whether the DellArte mention goes into those letters (that is, I’m sure they received their marching orders). Whatever else this is, this isn’t the editors’ fault.

    You don’t have to call it a conflict of interest, if that definition doesn’t work for you. But no matter what you call it, it’s damn shady.

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  27. AQ
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:38:28

    @Jane:

    I understand that authors don't like it and they feel its predatory to have the referral, but if the person doing the rejection isn't involved in ASI then it isn't a conflict of interest (at least not as I understand the definition of conflict).

    In the original scenario with Hh, Harlequin Horizons was a division of Harlequin and outsourcing all the normal publisher responsibilities to ASI.

    Are we still using that assumption with DellArte and if so then why would ASI be referenced at all as a party to the conflict of interest? Isn’t it a Harlequin rejection letter from a Harlequin employee referring an aspiring author to a pay-to-play division of the Harlequin regardless of whether or not the staffing is done by ASI?

    Sorry, I’ve obviously missed a connection here so could you please explain.

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  28. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:41:40

    There is no word whether this will pacify the writing organizations.

    If HQ still has a division which is a vanity press, then nothing has changed. So no, merely changing the name will not “pacify” the writing orgs.

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  29. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:45:07

    Because they misjudged the saleability of a manuscript and subsequent success of the book showed them they were wrong?

    Jane, they don’t actually think that’s going to happen. They’re being disingenuous and hinting at a promise of something that they know isn’t going to eventuate. That’s unethical.

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  30. Anion
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:50:18

    Jane

    To me the ethical problem with HQ claiming it will monitor DellArte books with an eye to acquiring the big sellers is, it’s telling authors that if they pay DellArte, and especially if they pay DellArte not just for printing but for the very expensive “marketing extras” which they claim will increase sales, they still have a shot.

    To me one of the main issues there is the implied-to-outright connection they make between giving them more money and achieving high enough sales to be given a commercial contract.

    That isn’t the only issue I have with it, at all. It’s just all I feel up to articulating at the moment, as I’m just stopping in while I have a short break. :-)

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  31. Daigon
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 15:06:14

    @Jane

    “Even the contact person is located in Indiana.”

    To be clear, all of the contact information for the original Hh were also for Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana (the home offices for ASI)…in fact they look the same.

    I live a few streets over from them so recognized the phone numbers and street address. ;)

    All of the imprints at ASI are from the same office with the same people…same happy little family.

    I have read on other boards that ASI was running out of business as of April, but I cannot substantiate that.

    Perhaps they were looking for new markets? Slap up a new imprint (website) attract new customers? It is an interesting business model to say the least.

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  32. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 15:12:03

    @Daigon: I’d be stunned (and, frankly, thrilled) if ASI ran out of business. They’ve been buying out their competitors, including Author House, iUniverse and Xlibris.

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  33. Daigon
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 15:12:48

    The fax number is Bloomington, the PR guy looks like he is in Indianapolis.

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  34. Daigon
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 15:14:10

    @Jackie Kessler:

    I have been watching this whole mess/venture/clusterfuck with a certain level of interest.

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  35. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 15:19:17

    @Daigon: Cool. Thanks, Daigon.

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  36. Stevie
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 16:01:40

    And, just to add to the joy all round, let’s remember the time honoured dictum:

    a million dollars now is worth a great deal more than a million dollars in a year’s time.

    I think it would be particularly good for authors who are considering submitting to Harlequin to bear that in mind; there has been much comment to the effect that Harlequin wouldn’t pass on a potentially profitable book in return for a few hundreds or thousands of dollars now.

    That is almost as optimistic as assuming that a bank would not have made a loan to someone manifestly unable to repay the loan…

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  37. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 16:13:17

    Setting definitions of ethics aside:

    @Jackie Kessler:

    Harlequin said it itself, in #7 of its Harlequin Horizons FAQ:

    However, if a title sells very well, Harlequin can acquire the title for future print publication.

    Seems to me what they’re looking for is decent manuscripts by authors who will market themselves more effectively than the authors they’ve got waiting in the real slushpile.

    Seems to me DellArte wouldn’t use it for a proving ground for manuscripts, but for effective author-marketers.

    Every time you hear/read an agent who says “talk about your platform” and increasing emphasis on “platform” (like a fiction author can have one–hello, it’s FICTION), that’s what they want to know: If you have the personality and ingenuity to be an effective marketer of your own books. The cult of personality is being mined for the purpose exploitation.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this is a much better way to find that serendipitous intersection of author-marketer than, say, trying to figure it out from a query letter.

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  38. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 16:30:40

    I can’t think of a conflict of interest that doesn’t involve a fiduciary relationship. There probably is, but I can’t think of one right now.

    What I think is incredibly fascinating (and very illuminating) is that some think there is a significant class of authors who are so emotionally vulnerable as to be in need of heightened protection.

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  39. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 16:33:48

    I can't think of a conflict of interest that doesn't involve a fiduciary relationship.

    Jane, nobody is suggesting that this behavior meets any legal definition of “conflict of interest.” They’re using the term in a lay sense, not as a term of art.

    And deceptive advertising is unethical. Even where it’s perfectly legal, it’s a shitty way to act.

    This is not about authors behaving like special snowflakes or being swooning delicate flowers. This is about authors being pissed off that aspiring writers are being taken advantage of by deceptive business practices.

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  40. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 16:36:02

    @Julia Sullivan I understand what you are saying but I guess I gave aspiring authors much more benefit of the doubt believing that anyone, even an aspiring author, would seek out information before plunking down a significant amount of money to pursue publication.

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  41. AQ
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 16:50:49

    @Stevie:

    Interesting thought. Just for fun can we guess at some numbers outside of any ethical discussion?

    If for the first year total self-publishing packages from HQ rejected referrals equal the total number of releases from HQ what kind of money are we talking about if we look at just the basic package without any additional services? Not profit just total sales.

    Anyone know how many new not reissued releases HQ averages each month? Anyone have a guess as to what that is percentagewise for the slush pile?

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  42. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 16:52:53

    I gave aspiring authors much more benefit of the doubt believing that anyone, even an aspiring author, would seek out information before plunking down a significant amount of money to pursue publication.

    In a perfect world, everyone would be savvy enough for this to be true. Unfortunately, HQ appears to be more than willing to prey on the hopes and dreams of those who are clearly NOT savvy enough to know better.

    I mean, come on. Everyone knows at least one person who is truly delusional about their talent. I mean have you seen the auditions for So You Think You Can Dance or American Idol? Clearly if Def Jam had a pay-to-play label, with insanely exorbitant rates for their packages, and all kinds of misleading statements about how you might achieve fame, and how they might help you get on the radio, and how paying them to produce your album might just make you the next Beyonce (and for only an extra $20K they'll make you a video too, and it might end up on MTV!), they'd be rolling in it. And I'd think just as badly of them as I do of HQ right now.

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  43. AQ
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 16:58:12

    @Jane:

    What I think is incredibly fascinating (and very illuminating) is that there is a significant class of authors who are so emotionally vulnerable as to be in need of heightened protection.

    Jane, you’ve presented the pro-business side of this argument very well and asked very probing questions. Is it then your contention that the pro-writers organization side of the argument has no merit and is only emotional? If you were asked to argue the writers’ organization position simply as a theoretical exercise are you saying there is no position? Legally? Ethically? Is there a difference in your mind?

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  44. Lynne Simpson
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 17:08:09

    @Estara: There is one publisher I know of in the romance world that is effectively a co-op, but the principals would never admit it. :-)

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  45. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 17:09:25

    @AQ: I think it would depend on the pro writers code of ethics/bylaws. That would be the basis of my argument. Ethics is a community based code of conduct. RWA has a code of ethics but I don’t think anything in that applies (as far as I can recall). Without standards and rules, I think its hard to make a consistent argument for unethical behavior which is something I wouldn’t do without being sure of it because it would be defamatory and expose me to liability. (If you recall Dave from Predators & Editors was sued successfully for defamation for impugning the business ethics – among other things – of the lawyer associated with Publish America).

    And I would say that authors should be pro-business which is not pro big business but understanding the financial impacts of the decisions that they make and to the extent that writers’ organizations exist to promote the financial interests of authors (which I presume to the point of a “professional author” organization) the writers organization should be equipping their members to discern between good and bad business decisions.

    Legally? I don’t think aspiring authors would have a case. At least its not one I would take.

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  46. Lynne Simpson
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 17:13:35

    @Kalen Hughes: And with the way Harlequin was lending its name and its prestige in the genre to the endeavor, warning bells that normally would’ve gone off for some writers may not have. Their reasoning would be if Harlequin is running the business and they’re encouraging me to do this, then it must be legit, right?

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  47. library addict
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 17:20:36

    I have been following the discussion here and at SBTB, but by no means have read everything out in cyberspace about it.

    Has it been clarified what RWA, SFWA, P&E, etc specifically require for Harlequin to be reinstated as an eligible publisher? I understand they and many authors feel vanity publishing is bad and the reasons why, but if (a) the referral is no longer on the rejection letters (b) the links have been removed from the eHarlequin website and (c) the Harlequin name is no longer on the venture, why is the mere fact that Harlequin is partners in a vanity press as a separate part of their multitude of publishing interests enough to tar-and-feather their traditional publishing imprints (Harlequin, Silhouette, Mira, HQN, Luna, etc) when the traditional arms of their corporation still pay advances, etc.

    As was discussed here in the Links thread a few days ago how much separation does there need to be? And if the fact Harlequin in any way owns part of a vanity press is enough to say ALL of Harlequin is “bad” then shouldn't every publisher who in any way financially benefits from a vanity press be made ineligible also?

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  48. Lynne Simpson
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 17:26:29

    @Jane: Okay, I agree that aspiring authors who pissed away their money on HarHo’s DellArte’s overpriced services would probably not have grounds to sue. I’m sure Harlequin’s lawyers sewed up the service agreements and contract terms very nicely to avoid just such an eventuality.

    But not actionable doesn’t necessary equal lily white ethical, either.

    to the extent that writers' organizations exist to promote the financial interests of authors (which I presume to the point of a “professional author” organization) the writers organization should be equipping their members to discern between good and bad business decisions.

    And that’s why MWA, RWA, SFWA, and Ninc were absolutely right to denounce Harlequin for launching this exploitative line of business.

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  49. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 17:36:26

    What I think is incredibly fascinating (and very illuminating) is that there is a significant class of authors who are so emotionally vulnerable as to be in need of heightened protection.

    I suppose I must be emotionally vulnerable, because I find this highly insulting.

    To be perfectly frank, when an author’s manuscript is rejected, the author is emotionally vulnerable at that point. So to hear, at that point, that there is another option for her (discounting the obvious “write a better book” option), she may be more inclined to take that pay-for-play option.

    I gave aspiring authors much more benefit of the doubt believing that anyone, even an aspiring author, would seek out information before plunking down a significant amount of money to pursue publication.

    If this were the case, watchdog organizations like Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors wouldn’t be necessary, companies like Publish America would be out of business, and authors would spend more time honing their craft than racing to print works that are simply not up to par.

    The simple truth is that there are people all too happy to make a buck off of other people’s dreams. And there are authors who, unfortunately, are very gullible and fall for the “it’s time for authors to take control” spiel.

    Of course authors should do their homework before they submit their work **anywhere.** That doesn’t mean established authors, industry professionals, and people who learned the hard way should just shut up and say nothing about the dangers of vanity/ASP presses, the pitfalls of self-publishing, and why it’s ethically bankrupt for a commercial publisher to steer aspiring authors toward its POD imprint.

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  50. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 17:38:41

    @Jackie Kessler: I don’t know why you would be offended by the statement. Clearly you aren’t in need of any heightened protection. You seem more than equipped to suss out what is right for you and your career.

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  51. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 17:54:33

    @Jane: I didn’t think you were referring to me personally, Jane. I still found the statement offensive.

    It’s not about protecting authors from the evils of the publishing world. Authors aren’t children (not counting the rare exception when the author literally is under 18). And it’s not about soothing fragile egos, or giving hugs when people are at vulnerable points. (That’s what support groups are for.)

    It’s about educating authors to help them make more informed decisions.

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  52. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 18:07:29

    @Jackie Kessler I guess I don’t know what you meant when you referred to “authors at their weakest” then. Or the terms predatory or prey which seems to imply a class of individuals who are prone to being taken advantage of. If it is just about educating, then why use those types of terms?

    I did go and edit my original comment because I actually don’t believe authors are so emotionally vulnerable that they need more protection than any other class of professionals or aspiring professionals only that the comments of some made it seem like that they are.

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  53. Evangeline
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 18:07:56

    @Jane: I can see your side of the issue.

    For example, the Jade Lee situation, or non-white romances that H/S has rejected in general (I single out H/S because despite the presence of Kimani Press, I’m sure black romance writers, as well as non-black/non-white writers, have targeted the major H/S lines) as being “unmarketable.”

    Since Harlequin has noted that they will take a second look at DellArte books that sell well, many writers who would love to write for H/S but didn’t fit the original vision the imprints have for their target audiences, would have a shot at proving their viability.

    For some, submitting to DellArte could be a business decision. Sure, they’re paying to be published/packaged, and they will have to put out more money for individual marketing, but it’s a 50/50 shot at writing for a major publisher–and no one can deny that romances with “nontraditional” protagonists are usually rejected because the characters aren’t white. Whereas writers who link up with Publish America or any other regular vanity press are on their own, DellArte is at least associated with a major romance publisher.

    As an author I do groan at the thought of paying a vanity publisher, and many, many, many writers have been scammed (though, this is because the ins and outs of becoming a published writer are relatively absent from the mainstream [just about everyone knows how to become an actor, or a painter, or a fashion designer]). However, I do agree with the ethics of rejecting an author and directing them to a vanity press. It raises the oft-repeated concern of Harlequin rejecting manuscripts out of hand simply to generate referrals to DellArte.

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  54. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 18:16:46

    @Evangeline I’ve never been a fan of the referral and have said so repeatedly. My question was directed at Kessler’s issue with Harlequin saying that it would be monitoring the sales. I really don’t understand that one but I suspect it is because I am not in the author paradigm.

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  55. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 18:33:42

    @Jane: So it sounds like you believe that when authors get rejection notices, those authors aren’t at a weak moment, perhaps even their weakest moment as an author. If that’s the case, then you just don’t know. You can’t understand it unless you go through it. (It’s sort of like childbirth. You think you know what that pain will be like, but you don’t until you’re actually going through it and it feels like your spine is being ripped out through your nostrils.)

    And if the issue with Harlequin claiming to monitor DAP titles for potential HQ talent still isn’t clear, then either I’m not stating it clear enough or you’re just not seeing it. Maybe someone else can explain it better.

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  56. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 18:37:00

    @Jackie Kessler so why be insulted with the term “emotionally vulnerable”?

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  57. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 18:49:06

    @Jane: It’s not the term that I’m insulted by. What you’ve neatly done is dismiss the issue at hand — of a publisher doing something ethically questionable — and instead turned it around to cast blame at the author for being emotionally vulnerable.

    Look, an author who’s been rejected **is** going to be emotionally vulnerable, as I said above. But that doesn’t mean those authors need “a heightened class of protection.” The entire point here isn’t about what the authors are doing. It’s about what the publisher is doing.

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  58. Stevie
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 18:51:04

    My last post seems to have disappeared into the ether; I’m hoping, pretty please, that you can yank it out of the spam-filter, since it look me quite a long time to write…

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  59. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 19:04:27

    @Stevie I’m sorry. I don’t see anything but two russian comments in the spam folder.

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  60. Stevie
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 19:07:01

    Jane
    Thanks for looking; I’ll rewrite in the morning.
    Night all!

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  61. AQ
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 19:08:25

    @Jane:

    Yes, I remember discussing the case of Dave from P & E with you. I don’t believe the questions I asked would have lead to a discussion that would have exposed you that way or that you would ever make comments so inflammatory but I’m not a lawyer or a legal expert so I apologize for asking anything of you that could have put you in that position. That was not my intent and I’m sorry.

    Since the questions I asked weren’t good questions. I’d happy to spend some time devising a hypothetical scenario and then re-targeting the questions to be very specific if you would be open to such an exercise. However, I understand completely if this is not an exercise that you would feel comfortable doing online or even one that you feel is outside Dear Author’s mandate.

    The reason: Jane, you’ve asked probing questions to drill down into the individual author’s perspective to get to the heart of their individual positions but I’m really at a loss for exactly what your position is because I simply don’t understand how all of your arguments within this discussion flow together or the fine legal distinction you’re making in framing your arguments without having all of the facts in this case such as any policies & procedures that RWA / MWA /SFWA may use to make an eligible publisher determination, the exact nature of the corporate structure and inter-connectedness (contractual agreements) of Harlequin Horizons/Harlequin Enterprises, Harper Collins / Authonomy / CreateSpace and Random House / Xlibris.

    Anyway, I feel sure that it’s clear in your mind perhaps even clear to you and others throughout all of your posts but with a fragmented multi-post blog conversation (as well as multi-blog conversations) I’m feeling a little lost. Well, actually a lot lost on the details of how your position comes together. Or perhaps I’m just out of my league here. That’s also quite possible.

    So I’ll leave it here.

    If this is not something you wish to undertake or anything the DA audience wishes to pursue, I fully respect your decision and will simply let the matter drop. Really, it’s not a problem, I will still respect you in the morning and still look forward to your next posts and our future written jousting thought engagements.

    But if you’re open to the exercise I’ll start working on it this weekend with the understanding that you have final approval over the content of any hypothetical exercise, you may change your mind at any time and that any other member of Dear Author’s audience who is interested in the topic may give input into developing the scenario with the understanding that interest in the topic may wane and we may therefore never see a future post of the topic. And that although the discussion may touch of legal points, the intent of any discussion would be to engage and include all of Dear Author’s audience base as much as possible.

    —-
    Oh, and I agree that authors need to be pro-business in their thinking because they are independent contractors who need to think of their writing as a business. Again my choice of phrase wasn’t very good and I apologize for my lack of clarity.

    And just for further clarification, I wasn’t asking my questions from the perspective of aspiring authors, I was attempting to ask my questions from a writers organization perspective since the original posts and subsequent conversations have attempted to center on RWA vs. HQ positions as it has been applied to Harlequin Horizons / Harlequin Enterprises and then moved on to include Random House and Harper Collins.

    AQ

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  62. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 19:08:52

    @Jackie Kessler I’m pretty confused now. You are saying I’m being insulting because I don’t agree with you? I think I’ve been consistent in what I’ve stated and that is I don’t think this is predatory or something ethically questionable. I don’t mean that to be insulting.

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  63. Evangeline
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 19:11:37

    @Jane: I know you have, but this conversation remains because from the authorial POV, all vanity presses are bad, bad, bad. There’s also the issue of “paying your dues”–if an author gets picked up by Harlequin via good sales as a DellArte author, they’re likely to face accusations of circumventing the “correct” path to publication.

    Besides the whole “vanity=scam” concept, to be honest, much of the Harlequin Horizons debacle is about status and the status quo. The thought of romance writers getting published in a way they feel suits them best is a boogeyman. I’ve always found the organization to be more of a supplier for NY publishers than an advocate for its members, the writers. Regardless of good personal relationships between editors and writers, the world of publishing is about making money, and with the emergence of Hh and Westbow, the publisher is less for indulging authors and more for the bottom line.

    Hence why the RWA should live up to its name. Perhaps disassociating from Harlequin over Hh/DellArte will push them in the right direction (meaning, pull focus away from simply “getting published” and onto the writing, the genre of romance, and how to be savvy businesspeople, regardless of publishing format).

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  64. Gwynnyd
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 19:20:22

    If looking at sales figures for “assisted self-published” books is the way to Harlequin’s approval for previously rejected authors, shouldn’t they be looking at all the self-published authors and not just those from the DellArte imprint? The shady part of the equation for me is that Harlequin seems to be implying that, given equally stellar sales, they will favor DellArte authors over those authors who choose to self-publish using less expensive options.

    The other question is: Did they before routinely accept manuscripts from self-published authors because the author did well self-publishing? Have they ever?

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  65. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 19:23:31

    @Gwynnyd:

    shouldn't they be looking at all the self-published authors and not just those from the DellArte imprint?

    No.

    By default of an accounting system and sales reports, they will be monitoring. It’s automated.

    If something jumps out at them, they’ll take a second look.

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  66. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 19:55:02

    @Jane: Now I’m confused, because I never said that you were being insulting because you didn’t agree with me. I don’t like how your comment turned the argument around to blame authors for being emotionally vulnerable. That has nothing to do with you agreeing (or not agreeing) with me.

    Of course, discussions like these would be much easier if everyone simply agreed with me. **grin**

    Have a good Thanksgiving.

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  67. library addict
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 19:56:26

    What if the author who pays for their book to be published through DellArte never submitted the book to Harlequin to begin with? It’s not as if the vanity pub will only take money from authors who have been rejected by Harlequin, right?

    Personally I can’t see anyone paying that kind of money to get their book published, but some people must for Harlequin and other publishers to be jumping on the vanity press wagon. I still think the editors at Harlequin will try to acquire the best manuscripts for the traditional part of their business rather than reject them on the off chance the author may pay to have them published. And I agree that Harlequin picking up any of the DellArte books to publish themselves is more in the realm of possible than probable, but the idea they will be monitoring the sales figures doesn't bother me as a reader.

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  68. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 20:02:16

    @library addict:

    Personally I can't see anyone paying that kind of money to get their book published, but some people must for Harlequin and other publishers to be jumping on the vanity press wagon.

    By virtue of the fact that I’ve suddenly acquired a night gig as an e-book formatter, I can tell you that there are a lot of people who simply do not want to mess with it at all, but just want a finished product and are willing to pay to have it done.

    Let’s compare it to my daughter’s bathroom, which I demolished and will be rebuilding this winter. I could DIY it because I have the skills and materials, or I could pay somebody because I don’t want to mess with it. Or parts. Like electricity and plumbing. I’m not touching either of those. They get hired out. But if I hire a contractor (even if he’s a ridiculously overpriced one, whether I know that or not), then I don’t have to worry about it.

    And then there are the people who genuinely CAN’T. They still want their bathroom redone and know they have to hire someone to do it beginning to end, and only want to write the check.

    Either way, the goal is met.

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  69. Deb Kinnard
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 21:11:05

    The part of the whole HQ Ho spiel that I find disturbing is the “royalty” rates. Royalties on what? Sales that HQ has plainly stated they will not foster? Sales the author makes independently? Shouldn’t the royalty rate then be 100%, since HQ has done exactly nothing to increase sales of that particular title? What exactly is 50% of zero?

    I’ve seen publishing equated to contracting a project before. Not quite a valid simile, IMO. I’ve never seen a contractor who wants to come in and pay YOU for rehabbing your kitchen.

    One last note and then I’m crawling back into the revision pit: When Thomas Nelson decided to establish WestBow (a previously utilized imprint with, like, authors, books and everything) as a self-publishing venture, the outcry was heard quite loudly. But that was in its marketplace, which is Christian fic and probably not heavily reported outside that marketplace.

    We in the C-fic world are just as bummed by Nelson/WestBow as we romancers are by HQ Ho. And they can rename it if they like, it will always be HQ Ho in my mind.

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  70. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 21:25:02

    @Deb Kinnard:

    I've seen publishing equated to contracting a project before. Not quite a valid simile, IMO.

    In terms of self-publishing or vanity publishing, it is, and I thought that was what we were talking about?

    I've never seen a contractor who wants to come in and pay YOU for rehabbing your kitchen.

    Apples and oranges.

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  71. Gwynnyd
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 21:58:49

    @Moriah Jovan:

    Well, yes, they will certainly have easier access to DellArte sales figures. What I meant is: if someone has been a “self-pubished” author with a sufficient (for whatever number constitutes sufficient) amount of sales, does this carry weight with Harlequin? Is it something that matters to the editors now – pre-DellArte – when they consider buying a manuscript? If someone had a self-pubished novel, marketed the heck out of it, and sold a thousand copies (ten times the average), would that now be a selling point when the author submitted to Harlequin?

    If it is, then there is a better probability of realizing the “dream” of being a Harlequin author by going the “self-published” route. However, paying the premium to use DellArte services would not be necessary.

    If it doesn’t matter, then it could be argued that holding out the lure of “use this higher priced service and you have a chance of us noticing you” is shady and meant to deceive, because they have no history of favoring successful self-published authors.

    I don’t know how Harlequin feels about authors who already have self-published novels. I was asking.

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  72. Walt Stone
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 22:15:38

    Timing, timing, timing.

    Which name did Harlequin have in mind for this imprint first?
    Impossible to say from the outside.

    The one piece of evidence we can check would be when the names were registered.

    You’d think that this DellArte idea was a last minute fix of a problem, so Harlequin must have registered that one recently, right?

    No. Of the three, Carinapress, HarlequinHorizons and DellArtepress…

    Dellartepress.com Record created on 11-Sep-2009
    Carinapress.com Record created on 16-Oct-2009
    Harlequinhorizons.com Record created on 26-Oct-2009

    And if I read my Netsol.com registry info correctly, the records haven’t been changed since their first registration — if that’s correct, then Dellartepress.com was pointed to NS1.AUTHORSOLUTIONS.COM more than a month before HarlequinHorizons.com was.

    Which means that Dellartepress.com was their first choice when the domains were first registered.

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  73. Caligi
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 23:02:18

    What do publishers gain by being on good terms with RWA? Do they only get space at the annual convention? Does that decision last week shut Harlequin authors out of Rita contention?

    Should Harlequin give a shit if RWA is mad at them?

    Is RWA still relevant? I mean, their categorical dismissal of epublishing houses is incredibly shortsighted. That’s a legitimate publishing option. Some of my favorite series and books are from epublishers. What else do they misunderstand?

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  74. AQ
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 23:22:39

    @Caligi:

    Is RWA still relevant? I mean, their categorical dismissal of epublishing houses is incredibly shortsighted. That's a legitimate publishing option. Some of my favorite series and books are from epublishers. What else do they misunderstand?

    Categorical dismissal? As I recall I didn’t care for the language used or the PR done but I agreed with the basic intent since the previous criteria used proved inadequate to deal with the digital publishing model. Given that a writers’ organization’s responsibility when determining publisher eligibility is to approve publishers which provide a legitimate path for the many, what type of criteria would you suggest that a writers organization use instead of what they are currently using now?

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  75. Caligi
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 00:14:20

    I’m not a member, so I don’t know the specifics, but I was pretty certain they require a >$1k advance for a publisher to qualify for their full status, whatever they call it. That excludes all epubs, I believe.

    I don’t see what’s wrong with the no advance/higher royalty model used by the epubs, and some ye olde school publishers. So long as the author’s contributions are always $0, that should be good enough.

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  76. Nora Roberts
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 04:28:36

    I’d add my comments but it’s simpler to say What Jackie said, right down the line to have a happy Thanksgiving.

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  77. Stevie
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 05:58:56

    AQ

    I have been trying to Google orders of numbers in the H slushpile but the recent furore has made that a herculean task.

    It’s obviously very large, since it has no agent requirement, but the exact numbers will be in the Bible for the deal, which is undoubtedly under armed guard along with the slushpile itself.

    Until now authors like Leslie Kelly have been proud to say that they got their big break from the Harlequin slushpile, but once the new stream of H-van comes online those authors will be saying the same thing.

    That’s not good for the Leslie Kelly brand.

    Nancy Warren is also proud to say that she got her break by winning the Harlequin Blaze Contest (unpublished category) back in 2000. Of course if she’d already van-pubbed it she wouldn’t have qualified for the contest anyway, but entering a Harlequin contest in future is likely to be a little less thrilling in terms of enhancing your cv.

    After all, I am prepared to wager folding money that all of the runners-up will be offered a wonderful H-van deal, so they too will be able to say they got their break from a Harlequin contest.

    That’s not good for the Nancy Warren brand.

    Admittedly Harlequin seems determined to emulate Gerald Ratner’s approach to brand management, but that is no reason for authors to jump off the same cliff.

    As to the ethics side I will leave it to Megan Lindholm, aka Robin Hobb, to summarise:

    “In these hard economic times, unemployed people sometimes say to themselves, ‘Well, the silver lining is that I can finally work on the book I've always dreamed of writing.' I'm sure that the number of unsolicited submissions has increased at all the publishing houses. But to decide to prey on those you don't judge worthy of regular publication is, to speak plainly, shameful.

    Harlequin, I expected better of you.”

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  78. Lynne Simpson
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 06:19:09

    @Walt Stone: Or it could mean that Author Solutions registered this domain for itself and then cut over to it when the HarHo thing was such a flop. If they’re anything like other companies and individuals I know who run multiple sites, they either had DellArte in mind for something else or were holding it as a just in case.

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  79. Maili
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 07:06:09

    Roughly four years ago, many authors (and the RWA, I think) were completely against epublishing because they felt it was taking advantage of new authors and that no self-respecting traditional publishers would contract ebook-only authors. And now quite a few traditional publishers are expanding to epublishing by developing an epublishing division as well as contracting quite a few ebook-only authors.

    Likewise for erotic romance. The majority of the RWA and many authors were against this because of a fear that it’d ruin the hard work they built to ensure Romance would not be the subject of insults and jokes from the public and the media. Now this sub-genre one of most popular sub-genres for traditional publishers.

    Actually, I’d not be surprised if m/m romance would have this similar experience in near future. Translated gay romance novels from Japan via DMP/June are popular in the U.S. at the moment. As far as I know, their releases this year already are out of stock. But I digress.

    I do think that many editors are watching epublishing closely to spot growing trends, so what is wrong with the idea of watching self-publishing (assisted or not) closely for similar reasons?

    More importantly, what if all traditional publishers decided that – say – a WWI romance wouldn’t sell, where do an author go from here?

    Editors’ decisions used to be made on their instincts, personal tastes and such, but these days, their decisions are sales- or market-driven. So it makes sense for some authors to opt for the self-publishing route or similar nowadays.

    With these in mind, what makes many here so sure that self-publishing (assisted or not) and vanity presses aren’t valid options for some authors? Especially when we know that market trends are hard to predict or niches are too small for traditional publishers to spot or care to invest?

    While I do understand why some are against vanity presses and self-publishing, I just don’t understand why it’s a bad thing for an author to invest in their own book in this age.

    I can understand why if today was twenty years ago, but these days? I don’t. I think it’s a different world now.

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  80. Estara
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 08:05:08

    @Lynne Simpson: Ooooooooh. Now you’ve made me curious. If you could give hints, nifty, if not – ah well. Don’t want to get you into hot water.

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  81. Stevie
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 08:07:31

    Maili,

    When it comes to money matters you really are not making sense. I appreciate that this may not be your fault, but nevertheless you are still not making sense.

    Your post is a mish-mash of concepts, tied loosely together with the usual verbiage, which has been churned out to try and convince people like you and me that the Emperor really does have sparkly, shiny and very new clothes, and that anyone who says different is a hidebound dinosaur tied to failed business models who simply cannot recognise the winds of change blowing through their probably greying hair.

    Etc. Etc.

    You could start by recognising that the word ‘invest’ has meaning, and then you could move on to realising that people who want to sell you things which are not worth very much frequently use the word ‘invest’ in order to convey the impression that it’s just like buying triple A rated bonds.

    And we all know just what a good idea buying triple A rated bonds was…

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  82. AQ
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 08:28:59

    @AQ:

    I'm not a member, so I don't know the specifics, but I was pretty certain they require a >$1k advance for a publisher to qualify for their full status, whatever they call it. That excludes all epubs, I believe.

    That excludes all epubs because the digital publisher choose not to give an advance. That’s their choice and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a valid business decision that works within their marketplace. Just like there’s nothing wrong with a writers organization requiring a $1,000 advance as one of the criteria used to determine publisher eligibility.

    I don't see what's wrong with the no advance/higher royalty model used by the epubs, and some ye olde school publishers. So long as the author's contributions are always $0, that should be good enough.

    There may be nothing wrong with it from an individual’s author perspective but a writers organization also cares that the many get paid for their work. With digital publishing the author may not have to pay anything but there’s also no guarantee that they will make anything either.

    If a writers organization is going to deem a publisher eligible for their approved publisher list then selling a work to the publisher must offer a legitimate path for the many to get paid.

    Almost 100% of authors who participate in the NY advance model are guaranteed AT LEAST $1,000 minus any agent fees. What’s the percentage for those authors who use digital publishing?

    35% off list digital royalty for a novel priced at 5.95 sold directly from the publisher: total needed to be sold to make that $1,000 advance is 500 copies.

    So RWA is asking the digital publisher to guarantee their ability to sell around 500 copies to fulfill the $1,000 advance portion of the criteria. Compare that to a small print publisher, they have to pay the $1,000 plus they have product print costs, warehousing and shipping. So their capital investment requirement to sell the product appears to be greater than the digital publishers’ capital investment. If digital publishing a robust, profit making business would guaranteeing the ability to sell 500 copies be too much to ask? I’d say no it’s not. Should a writers organization be able to dictate that a publisher make that kind of guarantee. Absolutely not because the writers organization is not responsible for making business decisions for any publisher. However, if the publisher wants to be on the approved publisher list then the publisher must comply with the criteria or offer up some type of alternative criteria which would fulfill the writers organizations goals.

    An aside: Someone said on one of the threads somewhere that with $1,000 advance NY could throw anything at the wall and see what sticks, from a writers organization perspective wouldn’t the digital model seem to be doing just that?

    The digital model isn’t evil. There’s money to be made for an individual author and some authors do quite, perhaps even exceptionally well. However, we’re not concerned with the few, we’re concerned with the many.

    So if a $1,000 advance won’t work with the digital publishing model, what options are available for us to prove that a digital publisher meets the minimum goals of:

    1. the author not pay-to-play

    ***ETA:
    2. the majority of authors gets paid at least $1,000 for their novel
    2. the majority of authors (close to that NY 100%) signing a contract with a given digital publisher get paid either through advance or royalty at least $1,000 for their work
    ***ETA

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  83. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 08:32:20

    @Gwynnyd:

    If someone had a self-pubished novel, marketed the heck out of it, and sold a thousand copies (ten times the average), would that now be a selling point when the author submitted to Harlequin?

    That’s assuming the author has any interest in Harlequin whatsoever. If a self-published author has sold 1,000 copies, she’s made more (on margin) than she ever would have made with Harlequin in advance+royalties (if she did it right).

    In my experience, people who self-publish with an eye toward getting “real”-published would never be looking at Harlequin anyway. They’d be looking at, you know, REAL publishers. In New York. Not those nasty little billionaire tycoon mistress types. And let’s talk about turnover: Harlequin makes its money on a subscription format and a high shelf turnover rate. You have how many lines? with how many books? on the shelf for ONE MONTH before the next batch comes through. The people I know who self-publish (including me) do it because what we write is out of the market “norm” (whatever that is), not because we write crap.

    From Harlequin’s perspective, it wouldn’t pay to look at those people. They can’t force a “successful” self-publisher (however you define that) to take a deal and they aren’t going to approach someone, not when Harlequin makes its money in subscription marketing of books produced to very strict specifications, and a frequent shelf turnover.

    So I really don’t see why Harlequin would waste its time or money looking at other self-publishers.

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  84. AQ
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 08:51:11

    Sorry my post at #82 is directed should have been to Caligi

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  85. Gwynnyd
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 09:18:29

    @Moriah Jovan:

    That's assuming the author has any interest in Harlequin whatsoever. If a self-published author has sold 1,000 copies, she's made more (on margin) than she ever would have made with Harlequin in advance+royalties (if she did it right).

    So I really don't see why Harlequin would waste its time or money looking at other self-publishers.

    So is Harlequin saying that they will “offer some successful DellArte authors a regular contract” a misleading-to-deceitful? statement? If successful self-publishers usually write to a niche market that does not fit Harlequin specifications, then a Harlequin-style self-published book is unlikely to be successful, regardless of whether the author pays a premium for the assisted DellArte services or goes with a more economical self-published route. So a come on that says “we will offer some successful DellArte authors a Harlequin contract” means “pay more for this but we do not expect any of you to meet our standards for ‘successful,’” right? That’s shady, IMO.

    I wonder if it will ever be possible to find out the real numbers of authors who published with DellArte and because of it were picked up by Harlequin? Will be interesting to wait and see. My prediction is that we will see one, or maybe two, made a huge fuss of over the next year or so just to “prove” that it can happen. I also wonder what level of DellArte services these authors will have bought. I am such a cynic.

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  86. Laura Vivanco
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 09:52:35

    they'd be looking at, you know, REAL publishers. In New York. Not those nasty little billionaire tycoon mistress types. And let's talk about turnover: Harlequin makes its money on a subscription format and a high shelf turnover rate.

    I’m well aware that there are many romance authors whose works are longer than the books typically acquired by Harlequin and/or are in sub-genres that Harlequin would not be interested in acquiring.

    However, I don’t understand why Harlequin should not be considered one of the “REAL publishers. In New York.” Harlequin has editorial offices in New York as well as in Don Mills, Ontario and London. It has single-title lines (such as MIRA and LUNA) as well as category romance lines.

    While you may not like the Harlequin lines which feature stories of the “billionaire tycoon mistress types,” these are certainly not the only kinds of romances published by Harlequin. Is there anything about Harlequin Historicals, for example, which makes them less “real” than Signet’s trad Regencies were? And did the Kimani lines suddenly cease to be real once Harlequin bought “the Arabesque, Sepia and New Spirit imprints from BET Books”?

    As far as turnover is concerned, it’s perhaps worth noting that the books in many of Harlequin’s lines appear on sale in a wide range of international markets. In addition, Harlequin sometimes reprints certain titles, and it’s now offering many books in ebook format, so they’re available for more than one month.

    Here’s a small selection of figures from Brenda Hiatt’s “Show Me the Money” page

    Avon/HC: Average earn-out: $23,000 Median: $26,500 Range: $12,000 – $35,000
    B’kley/J: Average earn-out: $16,400 Median: $10,000 Range: $5000 – $50,000
    D’chester/L: Average earn-out: $5500 Median: $4600 Range: $2,000 – $16,000
    Grand CP: Average earn-out: $38,500 Median: $31,500 Range: $8300 – $100,000
    Kensington/Z: Average earn-out: $6200 Median: $3800 Range: $2500 – $17,800

    Some Harlequin lines are lower than others:

    American: Average earn-out: $8150 Median: $7600 Range: $7300 – $10,100
    Blaze: Average earn-out: $12,500 Median: $12,300 Range: $10,500 – $15,000
    Intrigue: Average earn-out: $14,500 Median: $12,600 Range: $10,000 – $26,000
    Superrom: Average earn-out: $16,200 Median: $15,500 Range: $10,000 – $28,000
    Sil Desire: Average earn-out: $17,000 Median: $16,500 Range: $12,000 – $23,000

    If Brenda Hiatt’s figures are correct, does this mean that the average Harlequin book in all these lines is more real than the average Dorchester or Kensington Zebra book? Or that the average Silhouette Desire romance is more real than the average Berkeley/Jove book?

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  87. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 09:58:06

    @Gwynnyd:

    So is Harlequin saying that they will “offer some successful DellArte authors a regular contract” a misleading-to-deceitful? statement?

    I’m sorry, but I’ve lost the thread of your argument.

    As for whether it’s deceitful or shady or unethical… It’s irrelevant to me so I’m not going to bother trying to make a judgment call. I don’t feel the need to police DellArte or attempt to save writers from themselves. I don’t feel a need to dissect the language until it’s all but meaningless. People are responsible for researching for themselves, and that’s why P&E and AbsoluteWrite were established—to help them do that.

    Up until last week, self-publishing and vanity publishing were being deliberately conflated and the terms used interchangeably—and some people are still doing it even though the specific definitions have been farther broadcast now, and more people are aware of the differences.

    So I’m coming at this from the point of view of someone who has had people try to save me from myself in various ways, including humiliating me both privately and publicly, pointedly and vaguely, to get me to change my mind. People charge into self-publishers’ forums to castigate us collectively and individually, both for our hubris and gullibility, to shame us for our choices.

    Honestly, it’s not appreciated, and I’m certainly not going to do it to someone else, either by saying Harlequin’s deceitful or that a person exploring that option is too ignorant to know better.

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  88. AQ
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 10:03:52

    @Stevie:

    We know that in 2002 Harlequin published 1,113 romance novels or approximately 50% of the romance marketplace.* If we accept the 1,113 number, without trying to shift out reprints from new releases and assign it a value of 4% of the slush pile and then say that in the first year DellArte could sell 1,113 basic service packages to the Harlequin rejection pool or approx 4% of the slush pile.

    1,113 X $600 = $667,800 in total sales (NOT PROFIT) from BASIC service packages in the first year

    ———-
    Obviously our starting point is using numbers from 2002 and and we’re not taking into account any additional services purchased or other packages (my sense is that most would take a package from the middle of the choices offered or even from the top if they were bothering with this model of publishing).

    And just because: the NY Times reported in the same article linked below that in 2003 Harlequin “$585 million worth of books, for gross profits of $124 million, for a profit margin of 21 percent.”

    ——
    The numbers I’ve provided aren’t meant to replace solid research and analytical modeling, they are just provided to give us a sense of scope. Once real data became available, if it became available, we’d need to make adjustments to our model and our testing criteria before we could come to any conclusions.

    —-
    * NY Times article

    ** In 2002, IF 1,113 equal 4% of the slush pile then the slush pile = 27,825 manuscripts

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  89. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 10:09:37

    @Laura Vivanco:

    However, I don't understand why Harlequin should not be considered one of the “REAL publishers. In New York.” Harlequin has editorial offices in New York as well as in Don Mills, Ontario and London. It has single-title lines (such as MIRA and LUNA) as well as category romance lines.

    While you may not like the Harlequin lines which feature stories of the “billionaire tycoon mistress types,” these are certainly not the only kinds of romances published by Harlequin. Is there anything about Harlequin Historicals, for example, which makes them less “real” than Signet's trad Regencies were? And did the Kimani lines suddenly cease to be real once Harlequin bought “the Arabesque, Sepia and New Spirit imprints from BET Books”?

    I knew that would get jumped on and it made my point, which was to highlight the inherit pecking order of what is “real” publication. How about the glass ceiling of category writers who want to move into single title and mainstream? Category writers get sneered at constantly, even though they got published through hard work and perseverance, just like authors who write other types of books.

    There are a lot of authors who don’t think category authors are “real.” So is someone who self-publishes any less “real” than anybody else? I mean, I’m looking at my shelves of books on them and my sales numbers and wondering what’s ephemeral about it.

    Writers who self-publish with an eye toward getting a contract from a publisher want something more than what Harlequin could give them, because Harlequin has nothing more to give.

    Bigger (notice I didn’t say “real” this time) publishers can give them more. For us, it’s about the bottom line, not about “real” or “not real.” We’ve made those choices and we already knew we weren’t “real” when we started out, and that our “reality” would begin and end with our bank accounts.

    ETA: In re-reading the thread, I realized my argument about self-publishing is tangential, and since I have nothing substantial to say about DellArte, I’ll bow out of the discussion.

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  90. Anon author
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 10:20:21

    Here’s the problem with the ethics, as I see it.

    For all you non-fiction writers/authors out there and those who don’t write at all and never will or want to, keep in mind that there is a LOT of total crap that is sent in by Molly Author-Wannabe. There are — in general — three kinds of writers:

    1. The kind who are gifted. They have “it.” They just write and it’s wonderful. Most of these authors don’t even know how they do it, it just happens and the books just flow from their fingertips (that’s not to say they don’t struggle or work, only that they don’t need the outside help). They don’t need workshops or much in the way of revisions. Editors love having a manuscript by these writers — however rare — fall into their laps. Call these the top — maybe — 2% of all authors.

    2. Writers who are either talented and/or technically good. These authors/writers write probably about half of the manuscripts (mss) editors see. These mss or authors, with a lot of work, can be made better. These are the writers who go to workshops, hone their craft, work with an editor or two or five to make their mss better year after year. If they’re not very good at writing one kind of book, they’re astute enough to move to another type (from historical to Desire, for example). These writers/authors persist and, usually, after a lot of work and effort, listening to professionals and making changes, trying different techniques for style, craft, storytelling, succeed to varying degrees. Most published authors fall into this category, though it might take them years to get published.

    3. These are writers who will never be published by a major NY publisher because they’re terrible writers. This is where Molly Author-Wannabe comes in. She has a dream to be a HQ author, has just joined RWA, and knows in her heart of hearts that one day soon she’ll see her HQ Blaze book that she’s rewritten seven time printed by HQ. Finally, she submits it to HQ, gets a rejection letter (because it’s AWFUL) but the rejection letter doesn’t say, “Hey lady, stick to you day job…” because it’s a professional form letter. Now, what used to just say, “I’m sorry but your manuscript isn’t right for our line, blah, blah…” now says, “…but you might want to consider DellArte Press to see your book in print!”

    Here’s the main problem: Molly Author-Wannabe doesn’t know she SUCKS as a writer. She thinks she’s grand. Before this HQ venture, she might have gone on for years getting rejection letters that hurt, but she wouldn’t have gotten rejection letters that imply that — wow, if you sell enough copies by paying US, we might take another look at your SUCK–ASS MSS! Remember, Molly thinks she’s the next Nora Roberts, but really, the only people who love her books are her mom and sister.

    So she puts down thousands of dollars, gets her name in print, and sells maybe, what, fifty books to her friends, girls in the office, family? And all the while she’s thinking HQ might take another real peek at the mss they rejected because her mom and sister love her printed book!

    This is the most egregious, misleading, foul-smelling thing a professional publisher can do. HQ knows so much of what’s submitted is lousy, and they’re actually IMPLYING to these “suckers” who don’t know better that they might “take another look” at a rejected mss just because an ignorant person paid to have it printed — and they’re taking the money for it! It’s downright fucking disgusting.

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  91. Laura Vivanco
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 10:54:12

    my point, which was to highlight the inherit pecking order of what is “real” publication

    As I pointed out in a recent post at TMT the publishing model for academic books and articles is really, really different from that for commercial fiction. In academic publishing it’s not at all unusual to have to pay to have an article published (in a respected peer-reviewed paper and e-version journal) and it’s very likely you’ll have to sign over copyright to that journal/its publisher too. The new Journal of Popular Romance studies is going to be exist in e-form only, and I’ve submitted to it.

    So, I’m unlikely to make blanket statements about royalties, money flowing towards authors, or paper, having anything to do with the “reality” of a publication.

    So let me ask you this: Is someone who self-publishes any less “real” than anybody else? I mean, I'm looking at my shelves of books on them and my sales numbers and wondering what's ephemeral about it.

    As a reader, what matters to me is the quality of the product, not the method by which it was produced. I’m a medievalist by training, and printing only reached the Iberian peninsula at the end of the period I studied. A poem which survives thanks to one hand-written manuscript is no more or less “real” than a text which survives in multiple printed copies.

    I suppose that certain things are generally assumed to guarantee a minimum level of quality e.g. the academic peer review process should ensure that articles published in an academic journal are of an acceptable quality. This doesn’t mean that the same article would be of lower quality if the author had just put it up on her/his own website. But someone who wasn’t an expert in the field might feel they didn’t have the necessary qualifications to judge whether it was of high quality or not. Of course, the quality of articles in peer-reviewed journals is still variable, and some journals are more respected than others.

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  92. Anon76
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 12:02:23

    As I’ve said over at SBTB:

    While I would never direct a writer to an “assisted” self-publishing house, if the person was insistent, I’d advise them to check with all the other ASI houses and price compare. Find the best value, because the services will be the same. A cover artist working on an Author House cover may end up being the same person working on your Dellarte cover. They will do whatever you wish without providing editorial or content review unless you up your package choice. After all, they don’t want to enforce their voice on your work.

    Case in point:

    http://causticcovercritic.blogspot.com/2009/11/god-blessing-me-to-beast-feed-my-babies.html

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  93. Likari
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 13:27:42

    @Jane:

    I think this explains a lot:

    @Jackie Kessler: I don't know why you would be offended by the statement.

    I think this is pretty fundamental; and as long as you don’t understand why authors, published or not, would be offended by that statement, I don’t think it will be possible for you to understand why authors are so aghast that Harlequin embarked upon something so predatory as a vanity press.

    I believe you when you say you don’t understand. I don’t think you were making a snarky comment. It’s always amazing when someone you admire sees something basic in a completely different light — like finding out Bruce Willis is a Republican!

    But there it is.

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  94. Lynne Simpson
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 16:37:54

    @Estara: If you want to know, contact me via the form on my blog. :-) It’s not that I would get into hot water with anyone or that I’d be worried about it if I did. I figure there’s enough drama in blogland this month without adding to it. Must be the Thanksgiving spirit or something. :-)

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  95. Barbara B.
    Nov 27, 2009 @ 17:53:15

    @ Anon author said-
    “For all you non-fiction writers/authors out there and those who don't write at all and never will or want to, keep in mind that there is a LOT of total crap that is sent in by Molly Author-Wannabe. ”

    I’m one of those readers who don’t write at all and never will. I’m awestruck and fascinated by what those Molly Author-Wannabes must be submitting because over the years I’ve read hundreds of HQ published books and a lot of THEM were total crap.
    Quite frankly I’m now looking forward to trying a couple of those HQ vanity press books by way of comparison.

    I agree that what HQ is doing is very shady but what I’d love to know is what are the possible repercussions for them for their actions? If they’re no longer approved by RWA will “good” authors no longer submit to them? Will they lose their best writers?
    I’m just wondering what HQ stands to lose.

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  96. DS
    Nov 27, 2009 @ 18:42:40

    @Barbara B.:

    I'm one of those readers who don't write at all and never will. I'm awestruck and fascinated by what those Molly Author-Wannabes must be submitting because over the years I've read hundreds of HQ published books and a lot of THEM were total crap.
    Quite frankly I'm now looking forward to trying a couple of those HQ vanity press books by way of comparison.

    You made me laugh. A similar thought has been in my head.

    That and I can remember a decade or so ago when Harlequin was, if not the villain, at least not the author’s friend! They own my pen name and I can’t use it anywhere else! The advantage of writing under your own name was that Harlequin couldn’t refuse you the right to publish under it elsewhere. Then there was the not filing for copyright on books issue that affected potential damages in plagiarism cases.

    When did Harlequin become all shiny and new?

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  97. Barbara B.
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 06:58:15

    Since this thread is essentially dead, I’m going to be scattershot and off topic. As usual.

    @DS
    “When did Harlequin become all shiny and new?”

    I’ve been wondering the same thing. I know that they have a large market share but beyond that they’re the literary equivalent to a puppy mill to me. What they’re doing now is very cynical but not exactly shocking to my mind. I say this will all the arrogant assurance of one who’s never written a book, nor submitted to Harlequin.

    You know, Anon author left out the fourth category of author. Mediocre. This is by far the largest group of authors and indeed people in general. I know these are perilous times and many authors (who unbeknownst to them fall in this category) must be scared spitless that their manuscripts are going to be funnelled over to that vanity press. But that’s their challenge. But as for the Molly Wannabe- Authors, I say let these dreamers kiss the metaphorical hem of Harlequin’s gown in any way they can. Exhorbitant price or not. For some reason many would-be authors aspire to Harlequin. Harlequin’s vanity press may be the closest they’ll ever get. I think it’s pretty silly but I’m certainly no killer of dreams. Have at it Harlequin! But really, who’s got that kind of money these days? I see this as a dream deferred for most aspirants, no matter how desperate to be published. And if they do have that kind of money to throw away what’s the harm?

    Not being a creative type there’s something I just don’t understand. I’m the typical drone;an ordinary worker bee. I just want a check in exchange for the work I do. I don’t really care about what the job is as long as it’s legal and indoors and allows me to LIVE indoors. Why are so many people so desperate to be published author’s? Do they think that just because they can speak it naturally follows that they can write as well?

    I’ve seen “authors” who were essentially functional illiterates get all lofty and mystical about how they don’t just want to write but HAVE to write. This has puzzled me for years. How can it be that the these people have such a burning desire to write when they don’t have an iota of natural writing talent ? Have in no way prepared be writers, and quite often don’t even know the basic mechanics of writing a coherent sentence. It baffles me. I KNOW I’m not qualified to write anything more literary or taxing than a grocery list. What’s with these other people? Is there something in the DSM-V(not sure this is the latest edition) about talentless people who just gotta dance! or sing, act, paint, or write?

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  98. DS
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 11:06:06

    There doesn’t seem to be anyone else here but us– *looks around furtively*, but I have been thinking that as life lessons go this is relatively cheap.

    Is there something in the DSM-V(not sure this is the latest edition) about talentless people who just gotta dance! or sing, act, paint, or write?

    I don’t think it is just would-be authors who are chasing soap bubbles. I have known several people who clearly did not have the native ability to engage in a certain profession– law, psychology, medicine– but who went into debt to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, maybe even over a hundred thousand dollars, to pay for professional school and then found they couldn’t pass the state exam– or they squeaked through and then found they could not find/keep a job in the field. Every step along the way from the LSAT to school acceptance to bar exams they were told that they didn’t quite make the grade but they continued to throw money at it by paying for test review courses, going to unaccredited schools, etc.

    These people are assumed to be competent and allowed to go on with learning expensive lessons.

    What makes writers any different?

    My first thought when Horizons cropped up was that Harlequin basically sells a fantasy to their readers so its just a little step on to selling another fantasy to readers who also want to be authors. While the writers organizations must follow their bylaws, I really don’t think any different about Harlequin than I did before.

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  99. Anon author
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 12:01:52

    Barbara B, your post was fascinating to me.

    Yes, you’re right, I did leave out the mediocre author. It falls between the the good/talented author and the terrible writer, and there are a lot of them that get pubbed. IMHO, these authors get published because they have the right book done at the right time and nothing more. They simply get lucky. I know a few authors who have published two books under one contract and then have gone years without ever signing again. I have to wonder if these are just writers whose books are so-so at best, never sold well, didn’t have editor or publisher support because they weren’t very good to begin with, and their luck ran out. And, like you and many of us, I’ve read some pretty awful fiction in my day, romance and otherwise.

    I've seen “authors” who were essentially functional illiterates get all lofty and mystical about how they don't just want to write but HAVE to write. This has puzzled me for years. How can it be that the these people have such a burning desire to write when they don't have an iota of natural writing talent ?

    I’ve never understood this either, and yet from an author’s perspective, I can tell you that it happened to me. I absolutely could. not. imagine. doing anything else, and getting published was my only desire for about three years until it happened.

    I think part of it is that these are people who love to read romances and want to put their own story into words. And keep in mind that there is a total difference between knowing the mechanics of writing and being a storyteller. Lots of people can have flawless grammar and sentence technique, but can’t tell a story to save a life. And although sentence structure, grammar, and technique can be learned, the gift of storytelling — for the most part — cannot. It’s much, much easier for an editor to take a natural storyteller who’s not very up on her grammar skills and work with her to make her better, than to take someone who knows the mechanics of writing and make her a storyteller. That’s almost impossible.

    The main problem as relates to Harlequin is that Harlequin knows this and is taking advantage of women who don’t, and by using their brand name to make the writer think that by giving them money they might eventually become a HQ author. That’s unethical. Molly Author-Wannabe might have an Economics degree from Harvard, so she can masterfully write a technical paper for IBM, and this makes her think she’s totally capable of writing the next Romance Bestseller because she’s an avid romance reader and has been dying to write one for years. But these are two different things.

    While it’s true that if Molly wants to put out the money, hey, it’s her money. She’s a smart woman, and if she’d rather spend it on getting her book printed than on, say, a cruise, so be it. But what’s so despicable from HQ’s angle is that they know there are a hundred other Mollys out there who have this burning desire, have absolutely no storytelling talent, don’t know anything about the ins and outs of publishing, and HQ is counting on making money off their ignorance. It stinks and it’s wrong.

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  100. Barbara B.
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 12:26:26

    @DS
    “My first thought when Horizons cropped up was that Harlequin basically sells a fantasy to their readers so its just a little step on to selling another fantasy to readers who also want to be authors. While the writers organizations must follow their bylaws, I really don't think any different about Harlequin than I did before.”

    Beautifully put. I’m not getting this whole Harlequin as a previously class act who’s stumbled.

    That part about talentless yet persistent people in all professions resonated with me. I majored in psychology. When I took a personality assessment I tested as aloof and reserved. Not a person sensitive and empathetic enough to others to work in the psychology fiield. It was even suggested that I become an undertaker! I finished my degree in psychology because by then I was a senior and broke. I didn’t pursue graduate work in the field because I knew that the assessment was on the money. I understood the theories but I’m never at ease with people. I’m decidedly not a people person. Really, I was only in college because I got a scholarship and it got me out of the house. My only dream was to live by myself and not have to hear my parents nag. Not very aspirational. For me a check is a check. I eventually went to work in a bank where I discovered that I really should have majored in accounting.

    I feel so sorry for talentless dreamers. I have a relative who thinks he can sing but he sounds like a cat with sinus issues. It’s at once sad and hilarious. He’s still pretty bitter that his parents didn’t support his dreams.

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  101. Anon author
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 12:58:09

    I feel so sorry for talentless dreamers.

    There is also one other factor at work here, and that’s money/fame. One can aspire to be a psychologist, may have talent for it or not, but there’s not much money/fame in it. (Same with law, medicine, etc.) Nobody cares about “Celebrity Psychologists, Season Four, now on DVD!”

    However, when it comes to creative talent, for some reason, people see that “spark” of … whatever, and they want it because it might lead to money/fame, name in lights/in print. Or so they think. Problem is, only the top maybe 5% — at most — get that high on the scale. But then, “It might be YOU!” Hence, American Idol, et al.

    A lot of people think there is some mystical “place” an author gets to when he/she is finally published. Some years ago, RWA ran into a big fiasco when they established PAN — Published Author Network — a sub-set of RWA for pubbed authors, and whether e-pubbed authors could join (huge fiasco, there). There was this mystical thing about PAN. It was like some secret club. All you heard about at the conferences was PAN and who couldn’t go to the workshops. Non-published writers wanted something for themselves and so RWA created PRO, another sub-set, for writers who had written a full manuscript, had received a rejected letter by an editor or agent, but still hadn’t received “the call” and thus, weren’t quite ready for PAN.

    The point is, being an author is like being a celebrity to the aspiring author. She wants it, whatever “it” is. I remember my first editor telling me she went to a workshop in the mid-90s given by Nora Roberts and her editor, and some woman stood up and said, “Nora, I want to be you.” Someone, either Nora or her editor said something like, “You mean you want to write books like Nora’s.” The woman replied, “No, I mean I want to BE you.” Weird, but not surprising when those unpubbed writers are so desperate to publish because they want the celebrity — the money and fame they think comes with the job.

    And from the outside, how many clueless people think authors make a shit-load of money? While it’s true a few do (very few), and even some mid-list authors can make a decent living writing romances, most of us aren’t rich, and technically aren’t famous, except to the most avid readers. But there is always a Molly Author-Wannabe out there just dying to take one of our places for the chance at some notion at fame/fortune that’s just mostly an illusion, or nothing more than hard work. HQ is playing on this.

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  102. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 13:12:53

    @Anon author:

    nothing more than hard work

    Probably apropos of nothing, but I daresay this may be the case with *some* thing in everybody’s life. I remember that when I was a child I was fascinated by martial arts. I thought it was this mystical magical power that was conferred upon one the minute she put on a little uniform and a white belt.

    Well, fast forward a few years and I quickly learned there was nothing mystical or magical about it. It’s a skill (requiring a certain amount of baseline talent) acquired through hard work and repetition. Nothing more.

    It’s just that they usually don’t show that part in movies and if they do, they romanticize the hell out of it. Sometimes it’s not the hard work that gets to you. It’s the tedium of it. Romantic? Hardly.

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  103. Karen Templeton
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 15:10:48

    Barbara — there are writers (who love words and manipulating them) and then there are storytellers. When the stars are aligned, the two combine in the same person. Those people who “must’ write have stories to tell; sometimes they also have the tools to do proper justice to those stories, and sometimes (or, more likely, often) they don’t. Alas, enthusiasm/drive and talent do not always go hand-in-hand.

    I’ve judged far too many contest entries where the mechanics were so bad as to virtually drown whatever story might have been there — waaaay worse than anything I’ve ever seen in print by my own or any other publisher. And with the advent of the personal computer, publishers are more flooded with sub-par submissions than ever. But delusion runs rampant in all the arts — as you and others have pointed out, look at the hopefuls auditioning for any of the talent shows, some of whom actually get pissed when told they’re basically not any good.

    Encouraging someone with minimal talent to keep working at their craft is one thing; feeding her delusions by dangling the vanity publishing carrot in front of her, with its specious “mights” and “coulds” and “maybes” is something else. That my own publisher — long known and respected for the first type of encouragement — is now in the carrot-dangling business makes me very sad.

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  104. Likari
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 16:52:50

    @Karen Templeton:

    Very well put.

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  105. Darci
    Feb 04, 2010 @ 00:00:41

    As an aspiring romance writer and Harlequin reader, I heard through the publishing grapevine that DellArte’s first release is a Christian women’s fiction. It received excellent reviews. I heard DellArte was so impressed with this debut author that they decided to absorb the costs. I’ll believe it when I read it.

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